by Melissa Donovan d’Arabian
(Alpha Iota, University of Vermont)
I always had a best friend growing up – my implied buddy on school field trips, my confidant over hours of after-dinner phone calls, the perfect partner in my innocent crank-calling boys crimes. But my sorority sisters were my first real adult girlfriends. They got me through my mom dying suddenly, and taught me that women have relationships like no other. We are teammates on this journey of life, not competitors. We cheer when our sisters succeed, seeing their victories as evidence of an abundant world where there is enough success to go around. A sister’s success means I can succeed too. We cry not just in our eyes, but in our hearts when our sisters face disappointment. Alpha Chi was a safe place for this kind of support. And without a mom anymore, I needed that unconditional shoulder both to cry on, and to give me a boost to get a good view of the parade.
Being on and winning The Next Food Network Star and now hosting Ten Dollar Dinners is an extension of my love of connecting with others. I wish I could sit down and have coffee with people all across America, swap war stories, and learn from each others’ experiences. Ten Dollar Dinners gives me the chance to do just that on a large scale. Always in the back of my mind, I am imagining sharing ideas with my girlfriends. What tips would I give my best friends when they go grocery shopping? What amazing deals have I found that I’ve rushed home to jot off in an e-mail to send to fellow moms or ex-colleagues? That’s my sincere wish: connecting with America in the same way my Alpha Chi sisters connected with me twenty years ago. What a gift the bonds of Alpha Chi has given me. Far beyond the boyfriends, dinners out, and formals, Alpha Chi gave me the gift of women friendship. I would have been a lesser colleague, mother, wife and person without it.
by Cherí O’Neill, Executive Director
(Gamma Mu, Ball State University)
Last year, we introduced a new brand. You’ve seen the words: Real. Strong. Women. You’ve probably seen the video, too—the one that asks: “What is real? What is strong?” The one that says: “We’re changing the conversation.”
Well, we’re serious about those questions. And we’re serious about changing the conversation. I, for one, would simply like to see our organization have more conversations—rather than merely sending messages at people.
So as we launch a new blog designed to trigger conversation, I’d like to ask you the first question on that video. What is real?
To get you started, I’ll give you my take. To me, “real” means genuine. Not phony. Not feigned. Not façade. But rather, “what you see is what you get.”
Part of my reality is spontaneity.
Two years ago, I was working on a graduate degree in social work. I wanted to be a therapist, helping women realize their full potential.
One day, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity to supplement my classroom learning. I went to the Alpha Chi Omega website. The executive directorship was posted. And I figured as a therapist, I could help one woman at a time. Or as CEO, I could help lots of women at a time. I applied, and got the job.
So here I am, asking “What does ‘real’ mean to you?” And how do we, as an organization, recruit “real” women, and help develop “real” women?
There, the conversation’s started. Now it’s your turn. Tell me: What is real?
by Julie Cain Burkhard, Chairman, National Panhellenic Conference
(Beta Sigma, University of Georgia)
“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” – Samuel Johnson
Alpha Chi Omega’s Past National President, Donna Chereck, sent this quote to me last fall. A copy is taped to a shelf on my desk where I can see it every day. Reading what Samuel Johnson wrote and applying his wisdom to the fraternity/sorority community gives me the inspiration and determination I need to navigate the challenging times facing our country, higher education, and fraternities and sororities.
Fortunately, the 26 NPC groups, 500 College Panhellenics and 212 Alumnae Panhellenics, all members of the National Panhellenic Conference, are committed, despite challenging circumstances, to advancing the sorority experience.
NPC’s 2008 annual report, Women…defining the experience, includes some important numbers that exemplify the ways in which sorority members make a difference:
- 88,776 women joined an NPC group during the 2007-2008 academic year.
- 248,120 women were undergraduate members in 2007-2008.
- $19, 171,864 was raised from philanthropic events.
- 3,613,083 volunteer hours were devoted to community service.
- $380,087 was raised by Alumnae Panhellenic women and awarded to 466 collegiate women for scholarships in 2008.
- 1,621 undergraduate chapters maintained above a 3.0 GPA.
- 109,793 campus-based organizations included sorority members.
- 1,000 facilities were owned or managed by sorority members.
These are the facts that tell the true story of what today’s collegiate and alumnae members do with their sorority experience.
In December, NPC introduced a new web site, TheSororityLife.com. This web site is just the first of several sites that NPC will roll out in an effort to provide accurate, factual information about the sorority experience to potential new members and their parents. TheSororityLife.com acts as a hub for basic information; a second site, SororityIQ.com, is an interactive quiz that features factual and fictitious statements on the sorority experience. By this summer, two more sites will be online: MyCollegeLifeStyle.com and SororityParents.com. MyCollegeLifeStyle.com will focus on actual members who share their sorority experience. SororityParents.com will provide parents an opportunity to blog about their own sorority experience or ask questions about Panhellenic life today.
All of these sites are designed to advocate for the sorority experience in a way that appeals to women ages 15 to 18. By providing accurate information, NPC hopes to tell its own story — the positive as well as the challenging aspects of the sorority experience.
I urge all members of Alpha Chi Omega with Internet access to visit these sites, as well as NPC’s main web site, www.npcwomen.org. But most important, I ask you to share the sites with potential new members and their parents. Spread the word and share the experience with others.
We can’t possibly overcome all possible objections to what we face today, but we can promote what we know is a positive influence in a young woman’s life. Just ask the 248,120 sorority members who define the experience.
When the University of Maryland announced the renovation of its “Graham Cracker” properties, a block of university owned sorority housing, the Gamma Theta chapter of Alpha Chi Omega was one of the first on the list. Thanks to state bonds from the university and supplemental funds from the National Housing Corporation, the chapter house is one of the latest and greatest housing projects of our organization.
In the fall of 2007, the make-over officially began by tearing down, out and apart the entire house; all that was left of the house was the frame. Furnaces, flooring, roofing and more were completely replaced and brought up-to-code. The house was equipped with a brand new commercial kitchen and two study areas, something the original house never had. The house is now up to ADA government standards and is considered “green” housing—light fixtures and equipment are low wattage, and a recycling program has been implemented.
This past spring, members of the Gamma Theta chapter were able to move back to their much-loved sorority home. The women have been enjoying the “brand new” chapter house ever since.
For more than a decade, Alpha Chi Omegas in southern California have anticipated reopening the Alpha Psi chapter at the University of California – Los Angeles. Well, sisters, the time has come! This fall, the women of UCLA will have another option. Alpha Chi Omega will grace the campus to recruit those women who want to feel the difference themselves and create the difference for others.
Exciting opportunities loom on the horizon, not only for potential new members at UCLA, but for Alpha Psi alumnae, southern California collegians and alumnae, and Alpha Chi Omega members across the country who are energized about the future of Alpha Chi Omega as a whole.
With the current average chapter size on UCLA’s campus at 130, the bar is high right out of the gate! When opening a new chapter or recolonizing a closed chapter, it is imperative to make a splash from the beginning. Alpha Chi Omega is preparing to do just that. It’s time to get real, anticipate what it will take to be a success at UCLA, and make things happen!
The conversation starts here.
Can you spare some time?
Coordination between Headquarters staff, local alumnae, local collegians, campus Panhellenic and university administrators is key to a smooth introduction of Alpha Chi Omega. A colonization team is being established to guide the process. There will be opportunities to participate in the colonization process as well as ongoing roles as advisors, mentors, and special projects teams. You will begin to see marketing efforts this summer, which began with a web site dedicated to providing information about Alpha Chi Omega to potential new members. Check it out at www.axoucla.com. But, we need to do more. If your professional background is such that you could volunteer your time and expertise to assist with getting the word out, we’d like to hear from you. Are you a graphic designer, printer, event planner, or someone with boundless energy and enthusiasm for Alpha Chi Omega and the idea of organization growth? Let us hear from you. If you’ve got the time and/or talent to assist the local colonization committee, please contact Jana Accaccia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you spare a dime?
When the Alpha Psi chapter closed in 1996, the local house corporation did not sell the Alpha Chi Omega house in the hopes that the chapter would be revived in the future. Instead, it has been rented to boarders for the past 12 years. Now, plans are being made for major renovations anticipating the return of tenants who live in the Alpha Chi Omega bond.
While the local house corporation, led by Mary Davids, Chi, Oregon State University, has worked hard through the years to ensure that the frame, or structure , of the property has been well maintained and is in good condition, the time has come to focus on the public areas of the residence.
“A beautiful, up-to-date and classy looking house is a must when it comes to recruiting new members,” she says. “It will create a very positive image as the young women contemplate being a part of the new Alpha Psi chapter.”
Cosmetic updates include paint, carpeting throughout, and refurbished bathrooms and study hall. In addition to these aesthetic and continued structural repairs, living necessities such as furniture, mattresses and kitchenware will need to be purchased.
The local house corporation’s goal is to have the facility in move-in condition for the 2010-11 academic year. Your contributions are crucial to meeting that goal. The Alpha Psi House Association needs your support today!
For more information on how you can help the Alpha Psi House Association, contact Mary Davids at email@example.com. Donations may be mailed to:
Alpha Psi House Association
638 Hilgard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Helping to Open Doors for Disadvantaged Job Seekers
Terri Mathews Kearns, a 1975 initiate of the Alpha Upsilon chapter at the University of Alabama, always loved fashion. Combining both style and community service, Terri built, from the ground up, Our Sisters’ Closet—a nonprofit organization outfitting underprivileged job seeking women.
With a degree in fashion retail from the University of Alabama, it seemed as if Terri Kearns had always known what she wanted to do with her life—fashion, fashion and more fashion. She soon began a career with JCPenney as a department manager, where her knowledge of clothing and business practices was able to grow. Terri took a break from the clothing world, following the birth of her two sons, but she never lost interest. When the opportunity of JCPenney’s Events Manager was offered, she jumped at the chance to get back to work and to try something a bit different. In this position, Terri was responsible for fashion shows and many nonprofit sponsorship events and was able to work directly with the community. Through these opportunities, she was able to see how the nonprofit organizations were executed and how many people were helped through the organizations’ purposes and charitable events. Terri was truly touched; she too wanted to give back. Her passion for fashion was about to go a few steps further.
On a Saturday morning, while finishing the dishes, a program on television caught the attention of the self-proclaimed CNN junkie. The news channel was reporting on a program in Washington D.C. that provided women proper clothing in relation to job interviews—women who could not afford such a thing. Combining fashion and community service, this was exactly what she was looking for. The following Monday, Terri contacted the organization in Washington D.C. and wanted to find out how she too could start a similar program in her local community. The following year was filled with personal doubt, excitement, fear, happiness and many questions. Where would the boutique be located? Would the program be successful? Could she make it successful? The outpouring of support from her family and church allowed her to put aside her worries. The boutique was placed in her church’s old parish center, following renovations by volunteers and the community, and donations of clothing and accessories were collected for months. The boutique was aptly named Our Sisters’ Closet.
In March of 1998, Terri outfitted her first client, a women attending an interview at a retail store. She was unsure of whether or not she would have the correct sizes or even enough clothing in general. “What if I didn’t have her size? What if I didn’t have enough shoes? I wanted her to have something that she truly loved,” Terri recalls. As the woman’s appearance was brought together, the woman’s confidence rose. Terri had founded something more than fashion and community service; she had founded the opportunities of confidence, knowledge and success.
Today, the boutique sees approximately 25 women monthly, and Terri, serving as the executive director, personally outfits each and every one. She has expanded the organization to include a series of workshops, SuccessAbility Services, that educate over 50 people monthly, both women and men; two charitable events, Purse with Purpose and The Cheap Chic Boutique; and involvements with social service agencies and other job training organizations. Terri is never far from the action, teaching classes, making contacts and meeting one-on-one with those who benefit from the organization’s offerings.
As an Alpha Chi Omega, she is thankful for the teambuilding projects and camaraderie of her college days. That sense of being helpful and a part of something bigger is where she recognizes her service beginnings. Now as a member of the Mu Phi Mu alumnae chapter in Mobile, Alabama, her bond with her Alpha Chi Omega sisters has grown even stronger. Their aid and support of Terri and Our Sisters’ Closet is never-ending.
Right now, life is great for Terri, her husband, Hoagy, and their two sons, Ben and Sam. Although there is never a dull or free moment in their lives, they have made family priority. Terri laughs at the truth of
the saying, “When you are self-employed, you are the C.E.O., but also scrub toilets—there is always something that needs to be done.” Balancing the work/family aspect comes with its difficulties, but by taking on new challenges together, their strength has and will continue to grow. For now, Terri lives on the go. Bookkeeping, outfitting, teaching, and her fascination of cooking from scratch keep her busy, but she does not mind. She sums it all by saying, “When you find your passion, life becomes easy. Life becomes much happier and just easier.”
To learn more about Our Sisters’ Closet, visit www.oursisterscloset.org.
by Diane Wilson Blackwelder, National Vice President
(Omicron, Baker University)
All is not well in our country, according to the headlines and news reports. Millions of Americans are profoundly unhappy with their lives. Many are isolated, unconnected, adrift… lost. Family ties are tenuous. Divorce, disease and debt race like plagues through our cities and communities. Tension, aggression and the scramble to survive are taking a terrible toll.
Our problems are many, and we often feel increasingly helpless as our control slips and stress mounts. Economic hardship and declining income make unwelcome guests of anxiety and apprehension in many homes that once seemed secure. If you listen carefully, you can hear the urgency in their voices when they describe what they want: happiness, contentment, peace of mind . . . Above all, they want some sense of control over this increasingly bewildering world. They need a purpose to live for and the resources to pursue their purpose.
Let’s switch pronouns from “they” to “me,” “you” and “us.” If you and I want more out of life and are willing to take some steps, we can have a richer, fuller, happier existence. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose from a life of giving—answering the call to volunteer. The need is out there.
When I started being involved in community organizations and Alpha Chi Omega in the 70’s, I thought I was doing it because I was supposed to. I didn’t know what to expect out of it, but in time a light went on. I realized how fortunate and how great I have been treated during my life. I was healthy, eager to help and curious to seek involvement with a few activities in a major way. In doing so, I learned what is at the heart of service organizations and the value of membership in Alpha Chi Omega. That was when I realized how much I was getting in return and how much good my efforts and time were doing.
I invite each of you to get involved. Starting with your Alpha Chi Omega sisters, a collegiate or alumnae chapter, a philanthropic event; match your talents to the opportunity! You, personally, can make a difference. Whether you give money or your time, it all helps. There are more than 800,000 nonprofit organizations in America, so finding one that you like isn’t a difficult task. Of course, Alpha Chi Omega is my top choice for volunteering.
Let’s look at some reasons people choose not to get involved. They are:
- “I don’t have any special talents.”
- “I’m shy and have trouble meeting people.”
- “I’m a person with only limited resources.”
- “There’s no particular cause that interests me.”
- “My charity begins at home.”
These reasons can be overcome, but remember to pace yourself. Don’t overdo it!
- Don’t overextend yourself.
- Don’t overpromise.
- Don’t try to do it all alone.
- Don’t overreact.
- Do find time to enjoy your work.
The benefits of getting involved, particularly in Alpha Chi Omega, are numerous:
- You will have fun and be rewarded.
- You will meet new people.
- You will meet many old friends in a new light.
- It opens doors for jobs and business relations and much more.
If you do get involved you will find there are three kinds of people:
- Those who make things happen,
- Those who watch things happen,
- Those who wonder how things happened.
Try to be the kind of volunteer who makes things happen! Share what you have with others. As Real Strong Women we need to invest in each other. When we give to others – when we share our time, talent and money – we do not end up with less, but more. Alpha Chi Omega values her volunteers and offers gratitude to those who are taking our sisterhood to new heights.